This cake is basically the best thing I make. I made it as a birthday present for my boyfriend, back when he was just a friend. It was possibly a turning point in our relationship… His favourite desserts were apple crumble and cheesecake (this cake is now the favourite), so I decided to combine them. To be honest, I expected it to be a novelty dish more than anything, so I was surprised when it turned out really well. The apples cut through the rich creamy-ness of the cream cheese, and with the base and the crumble topping the whole thing is encased by crunchy-ness.
This year he was at Burning Man for his birthday, so I made it before he left. The night before he left, actually, and I didn’t take any pictures of it. Ostensibly, I forgot. In reality, I figured it would give me a good excuse to make it again. He was already disappointed in how little of it he got to eat before he left (BTW, he did manage to get through about a third of it, and I did pack him some to eat for breakfast on way to the airport). My housemate Bec and I were left to eat the rest of the cake, and we were happy when it was gone because it wasn’t hanging over our heads any more. It was like some terrible chore – we knew, each night, that we’d have to eat some… First world problems are the WORST.
In an attempt to curb my depression resulting from not being able to go to Burning Man (read: to try and stop being a sook), I decided that I would make the cheesecake again for when he got back, but this time I’d make it from scratch. Well, scratch-ish because I didn’t make the sour cream, or mill the flour, or grow the apples… But, I did make something that approximates cream cheese and the biscuits for the base. While I think this went some way towards distracting me from not being on a crazy adventure in the desert, I don’t think it’s really necessary. The cake is better with store-bought cream cheese, although admittedly I didn’t make proper cream cheese, which would have probably been better but more work. The biscuits were good, but again, it doesn’t make much difference. The only reason you’d really bother is so you can say you did. I’ve included the recipes anyway, but don’t feel like you need to do this much work.
For the cream cheese: strained yoghurt
Upon some internet investigation, I discovered that a sort of cream cheese could be made by simply draining yoghurt. I wrapped a litre of yoghurt in some canvas and hung it over a bowl for about 12 hours:
Yep, sophisticated. The end result is really just a thick yoghurt. It works fine in the cheesecake, but it’s lighter and not as creamy as cream cheese, and I don’t think it’s quite as good. But you can also use strained yoghurt in dips and as a spread, and turn it into labna if you want to marinate scoops of it in oil and junk.
For the base: digestive biscuits
I thought I’d make graham crackers (who calls a cracker Graham? Was he white? Is that racist?) for the base, just because I have a book with a recipe for them in it, but then I realised that while I’ve seen them used in recipes, I’ve never eaten them – they seem to be one of those American foods that I know about but for some reason has never reached our shores. So instead I decided to find a recipe for digestive biscuits, my biscuit of choice for cheesecake bases. I love digestive biscuits, in no small part because of their humble name. They don’t claim to be anything other than digestible, which one would hope all biscuits are. Good for them I say, you don’t want people to start expecting too much from a biscuit, that’s bound to end in disappointment. I based my recipe loosely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for River cottage spelt digestive biscuits. I say loosely because I didn’t have spelt flour or the inclination to source some, and I used half as much butter because I read the recipe incorrectly (I was tired – earlier that day I read ‘Optus’ as ‘Octopus’, making for a very confusing news headline).
But they came out pretty well. See if you can pick which one is homemade:
Mine is the one on the right. Don’t feel bad if you got it wrong, I am pretty awesome. Anyway, here’s the recipe:
2 2/3 cup wholemeal flour
2 cups of oat bran
125 g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
Heat oven to 150°C. Combine flour, oats, butter, sugar, baking powder and salt in a food processor and blend until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk a bit at a time until the mixture comes together. Roll the mixture out between two sheets of baking paper. Cut into large circles, about 8cm in diameter, and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
Apple crumble cheesecake
250g digestive biscuits, homemade or otherwise (or other sweet plain biscuits)
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 granny smith apples
Juice of half a lemon
3/4 cup caster sugar
500g softened cream cheese, or strained yoghurt
250g sour cream
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed firmly
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
60g unsalted butter, chopped
2/3 cup plain flour
Lightly grease a 23cm diameter, round, springform tin, and line the base with baking paper. Sprinkle the base and inside sides with flour. Dust off excess.
Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Mix in the melted butter. Spoon mixture into tin and press firmly to cover the base and sides evenly. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or until ready to assemble the cake.
Peel and core apples. Cut roughly into 2cm pieces. Put in a heavy-based frying pan with 1/4 cup of the caster sugar and the lemon juice. Cover and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Strain and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.
Mix the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in food processor until light and smooth. Scrape down sides to ensure all is combined evenly. Add eggs and mix until combined. Add sour cream and mix until combined. The mixture will be runny and smooth.
To make the crumble, mix brown sugar, baking powder, and ground ginger in a small bowl. In a large bowl, rub butter into flour with your fingers to form pea-sized pieces that resemble bread crumbs (they don’t need to all be the same size). Add sugar mixture to flour and butter mixture and toss gently with your hands to combine
Preheat oven to 150°C.
Remove the base from the fridge to assemble the cake. Spread apples evenly over the base. Pour cream cheese mixture over the apples. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the cream cheese – gently so that the crumble doesn’t sink too much into the cheese. Cover the cream cheese evenly to the edges.
Bake the cheesecake for an hour or until set (feels firm, with only a slight wobble when you take it out of the oven). Cool in tin, and refrigerate overnight.